Welcome to our newest Board Member, Dipti Verma!

Please join us in extending a very warm welcome to our newest Board Member, Dipti Verma!

Dipti Verma is Director of Market Data at S&P Global Market Intelligence (SPGMI) based in New York. She is the Global lead for the Fixed Income Data management team that supports terms & conditions and pricing data, credit ratings, interest rates, ESG, credit default swaps, and debt capital structure. Her areas of focus are seamless delivery of content across all SPGMI products for IM/IB/Corporate clients, managing vendors, conflict resolution while dealing with multiple deliverables for product, content, technology & incorporating client feedback for continuous innovation. Her 20 years of global experience in financial services & banking positions her well at handling ambiguous projects, negotiating with challenging stakeholders & successfully delivering tangible products to the end-customer. Prior to joining S&P Global in 2010, she worked in various capacities at Merck, ABN Amro Bank & GMAC Mortgage.

She is an AWS Certified Solutions Architect and a Certified SAFe® 5 Product Owner/ Product Manager.

“The mission of ASTEP resonates with me & bridges two causes close to my heart – children and arts. In addition to indulging in random acts of kindness, I look forward to ASTEP providing a framework that enables me to give back to the community in a more meaningful manner. I strongly believe working towards furthering the well-being and development of the under-privileged communities especially younger people ensures we all have a better future.” -Dipti Verma

Welcome, Dipti!


Announcing the 2021 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellowship Recipients

Morgan McGhee
Morgan McGhee
Zahra Budhwani
Zahra Budhwani

For a fourth year, ASTEP is honored to select two stellar Teaching Artists as recipients of the Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellowship for their work with ASTEP Arts at the Newcomer Youth Summer Academy 2021. We are thrilled to announce this year’s fellows – Morgan McGhee & Zahra Budhwani. 

ASTEP provides the arts component of The International Rescue Committee’s Newcomer Youth Summer Academy (NYSA), a five-week summer camp supporting the personal growth, cultural adjustment, and education for young people who have recently resettled in New York City (ages 4-22) and helps them successfully transition into the US school system. 

Due to the current global pandemic, NYSA will be held virtually for the second consecutive year. Our incredible team of Teaching Artists, including Morgan and Zahra, have created a digital space that empowers young people with a sense of community, courage, and creative capacity. Through the arts, our Teaching Artists focus their lessons on nurturing English language and coping skills, as well as school readiness. 

The Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellowship is a unique opportunity for individuals who closely model Jennifer’s passion for utilizing the arts to celebrate a young person’s strengths and build up their unique areas for growth. With this fellowship, we honor Jennifer’s legacy by celebrating Morgan and Zahra’s outstanding contributions to the ASTEP classroom. 




Get to know Lindsay Roberts, our new Director of Programs!

We are thrilled to welcome Lindsay Roberts to the ASTEP staff as Director of Programs!

Where did you grow up?
I was born outside of Chicago but grew up outside of Philadelphia so it’s all about soft pretzels and Wawa coffee for me!

Where did you work before joining the ASTEP team?
Prior to coming to ASTEP, I served as the Arts Education Program Manager and the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access Co-Manager at Young Audiences Arts for Learning New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania, developing and managing multi-disciplinary arts education programming that reached over 350,000 school children each year.

Do you have a background in the arts or teaching?
Definitely! I have been singing and a lover of the arts since I was five years old. Onstage, I am a musical theatre singer and actress. I began my professional career after graduating and soon after joined the Broadway First National tour of MEMPHIS, covering the starring role of Felicia Farrell. I also toured with the Broadway First National Tour of THE GERSHWINS’ PORGY AND BESS and was featured as the “Creole Love Call” singer on the NCL International Tour of Broadway’s After Midnight. Some of my favorite New York and regional credits include portraying Cindy Lou in Classic Stage Company’s New York Revival of Carmen Jones, multiple engagements at New York City Center Encores, The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Kristin Chenoweth’s National Tour (where I first met Mary-Mitchell!), the Kennedy Center, Signature Theatre, Baltimore Center Stage, La Jolla Playhouse, and Lincoln Center.

In my formal training, I earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Maryland in Opera/Vocal Performance with a concentration in Music Education and a Master of Science in Arts Administration from Drexel University. I have worked for many years as a teaching artist and arts administrator and I am also a Certified Diversity Professional through the National Diversity Council and specialize in culturally relevant arts education and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the arts sector.

What is the most challenging part of your work?
The balance. There are so many places where I believe the life-changing impact of rich arts education experiences are needed, but there is only so much capacity that one person or one organization has at any given moment. Determining where to focus resources can be a very challenging decision because your heart wants to be everywhere.

What is the most rewarding part of your work?
I love love love seeing the connection between great teaching artists and young people co-creating together. There is nothing better than being a part of the work in real-time.

What about working for ASTEP are you most looking forward to?
I love working with this team and I am so excited about the new direction for ASTEP. I look forward to new partnerships, greater impact, and bringing new and diverse voices into the learning spaces with young people.

What song best encapsulates your working personality?
I actually love working at night, in the quiet, when I can imagine project growth and expansion and think through the work without interruption. Because of that, and also because some of my earliest childhood music experiences come from hits of the 90s, I chose “Dreaming of You” by Selena.

Key lyrics that feel especially relevant when thinking about working from a passion-point are:

Late at night when all the world

Is sleeping

I stay up and think of you…

‘Cause I’m dreaming

Of you tonight


‘Till tomorrow

I’ll be holding you tight

And there’s nowhere in the world I’d rather be

Than here in my room

Dreaming about you and me

I can’t stop dreaming of you

(No puedo dejar de pensar en ti)

I can’t stop dreaming

(Cómo te necesito)

I can’t stop dreaming of you


UPDATE! Expanded Changemakers Scholarship Eligibility

UPDATE: We have now expanded our scholarship eligibility to students living anywhere in the US!

The ASTEP Changemakers Scholarship will award six $1,000.00 scholarships, each supporting a Black student who has demonstrated leadership and a commitment to social justice. This scholarship will support the recipients’ educational journey.

Eligibility- Must be a graduating high school/alternative school senior in the US. This scholarship may be used at an accredited college, university, vocational, or technical training program. Of the six scholarships, at least one will be awarded specifically for a student attending an HBCU (Historically Black College or University). Former ASTEP students are especially encouraged to apply.

Applicants must submit either a video or an essay to answer the question: How are you an agent of transformation toward social justice? Give specific examples from your life and personal beliefs.

Submission deadline: June 1, 2021
Winners will be contacted by June 14, 2021

If chosen, winners will be asked to share their story by submitting a photo and paragraph about how the funds were used to support their educational pursuits as their testimonies help promote the scholarship fund for future applicants.


Program Manager Tiffany Ramos Answers our Creative Activity Kit Questions

Tiffany Ramos holds up Creative Activity Kits

After hearing from our partners that the young people we serve were experiencing zoom fatigue from virtual learning, or had limited internet access, our Program Manger Tiffany Ramos crafted the Creative Activity Kits as a zero-technology solution. 

We asked Tiffany some questions about the Creative Activity Kits, and loved hearing their perspective on the initiative!

Why was it important to start the Creative Activity Kits initiative? 

It was important to start this initiative because at the very beginning of 2021 we were hearing from our partners how most children were experiencing zoom fatigue in virtual programming. Since school had shifted to virtual learning, some children had difficulties with access and navigation, and others were no longer feeling engaged through virtual workshops due to long hours spent in front of a device. As a result, we thought to take a zero technology approach to our programming and shift to something that engaged children more tangibly. Our Creative Activity Kits offered the magic and joy of an ASTEP classroom in lieu of in person classes, for now ASTEP classes and Teaching Artists take form in the art supplies and activity workbooks created and shared with children. Through this initiative we’ve been able to continue to bring play and social emotional learning through the arts to children throughout New York City who are more likely to have limited creative outlets. 

How do you think the kits have impacted the communities we serve? 

We have received a great amount of positive feedback from partners and children expressing how joyful children have been while completing activities and playing with their supplies. I think this initiative has had a great positive impact on the communities we serve. I know much of the supplies we have shared with children have been popular, then there’s the added bonus that students get to keep these kits making it that much more impactful. We are giving the gift of art and access to materials to fully participate in creative exploration. We hope that children get to use their supplies for the activities we provide as well as everyday entertainment and allow them the opportunity to continuously engage in creative play. 

What are your three favorite items in the Creative Activity Kits? 

My three favorite items have been a dance ribbon, because the movement is mesmerizing, and it just so happens to be one of the children’s favorite items as well. I’m also a huge fan of the play doh, because it’s a great molding tool and play doh is just so much fun to squish. My third favorite item is the spin drum because I enjoy percussion, I think it makes such an interesting sound to play with and I hope our students feel the same curiosity towards this fun noisemaker.

Any other thoughts?

While we have not been able to be onsite and share space together with children, our Creative Activity Kits have brought such excitement to our partners, students, and our ASTEP team. I think each month has been a fun mystery for our students as they receive new activities each month, and our Creative Activity Kits offer new ways for ASTEP to engage with our community. We have heard how appreciative our partner’s onsite staff members have been to have resources in the classroom for students to focus on while maintaining safety protocols. 

Click here to help us continue our Creative Activity Kits initiative.

New Additions to the ASTEP Staff

In this year of reflection and growth, we are thrilled to welcome two individuals into new roles within the ASTEP team: Alejandro Rodriguez and Kate Garst!

Some of you may know Alejandro, as he is a longtime ASTEPer, but please join us in welcoming him into his new role as ASTEP’s Deputy Executive Director!

Alejandro began his journey with ASTEP in 2006, at 18 years-old, as a volunteer teaching artist with the Art-in-Action (AIA) summer camp in Homestead, Florida, only half-an-hour south of where he was born and raised. After graduating with his BFA from Juilliard in 2009, he went on to coordinate both the AIA program as well as the Refugee Youth Summer Academy in Brooklyn, as well as contribute to nearly all other ASTEP offerings in a myriad of ways. In 2014, he inaugurated his own ASTEP program, the Artist as Citizen Conference (AAC), an immersive educational program that developed young artists by combining traditional arts classes and career skills workshops with speakers & panels on the subjects of citizenship, service & social justice. AAC was hosted at Juilliard  for six consecutive summers and positively impacted the lives of over 250+ young artists. He left New York in 2018 to pursue further experience in arts leadership, serving as the Associate Artistic Director of North Carolina’s premiere  professional theater company, PlayMakers Repertory. He returns to ASTEP in this pivotal time to work alongside its founder, Mary Mitchell Campbell, to help metabolize and activate the various lessons of 2020, and to assist in building a more dynamic, more inclusive, more sustainable foundation for ASTEP’s next 14 years of service.

“My journey at ASTEP has been, quite literally, from the bottom up. I’m excited to bring the solidarity I feel for all aspects of this organization — our superhero partners, our rockstar teaching artists, and of course, our incredible students — to bear on its continued evolution.” -Alejandro Rodriguez

Introducing Kate Garst, ASTEP’s new Director of Strategic Initiatives!

Where did you grow up? 
A proud Cornhusker, I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska.

Where did you work before joining the ASTEP team?
I’m departing The Atlantic Philanthropies which concluded its grantmaking of 8 billion dollars in September in alignment with the founder’s wishes to devote his wealth to the service of humanity. In the theatrical world, I worked with Jujamcyn Theaters, Stacey Mindich Productions, Korins Studio (formerly David Korins Design) and the Public Theater.

Do you have a background in the arts or teaching?
Theater has been an important part of my life since I was a child, and that passion fuels my professional life.

What is the most challenging part of your work?
I’ve never met a challenge I could walk away from.

What is the most rewarding part of your work?
Seeing the impact it has on people.

What about working for ASTEP are you most looking forward to?
Making an impact on the lives of children and their families. New York has been my home for 12 years, and I’m excited to join the ASTEP team who seeks to reach the children in our community through the arts.

What song best encapsulates your working personality?
All Together Now, The Likes of Us.



Introducing Musicians United for Social Equity (MUSE)

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ASTEP Changemakers Scholarship

We are thrilled to announce the ASTEP Changemakers Scholarship!

The ASTEP Changemakers Scholarship will award two $1,000 scholarships, each supporting a Black student who has demonstrated leadership and a commitment to social justice. This scholarship will support the recipients’ educational journey.

Eligibility- Must be a graduating high school senior and resident of New York City. This scholarship may be used at an accredited college, university, vocational, or technical training program. Of the two scholarships, one will be awarded specifically for a student attending an HBCU (Historically Black College or University). Former ASTEP students are especially encouraged to apply.

Applicants must submit either a video or an essay to answer the question:
How are you an agent of transformation toward social justice? Give specific examples from your life and personal beliefs.

Video Requirements: Must be a link (ex. unlisted on YouTube or Vimeo); Must be under 5 mins
Essay Requirements: Must be under 1,000 words; Must be in PDF format; File should be labeled FirstnameLastname.pdf
Applicants must also provide a personal reference

Submission deadline: July 31, 2020
Winners will be contacted by August 15, 2020

Click here to apply!



New Direct Relief Program: Filling the Food Gap

“You are all doing exactly what the title of your organization says that you are doing.
You are: “Artists Striving to End Poverty.”
– Judy Juster, Clinical Coordinator/After School Program Director at Abraham House

Direct Relief Program - Filling the food gap

We are excited to share the news that ASTEP has started a food distribution program, Filling the Food Gap, in partnership with the Red Hook Container Terminal and the NYCEDC. This program provides direct service, food distribution, to one of our partners Abraham House located in the South Bronx.

Over the past month, donations of fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, poultry, and meat have been delivered to support the students that we serve, as well as their families and the greater community. Many people who received food were excited by the quality of the food, as well as the fresh poultry and beef, as the majority of donations have been canned goods. With this program, we have been able to provide 3 deliveries of fresh food to over 1,800 people!

Check out this NY Daily News article that features Mike Stamatis, the owner of the container terminal, and the impact these donations have had.

To help us to continue supporting the needs of the communities we serve during this difficult time, please consider a donation to ASTEP’s Arts Resilience Fund.